All five Mansfield ISD schools have reached the midpoint of district competition in boys basketball, and after the first round of games, it appears that earning a district championship might require pulling rabbits from a hat.
But, with four teams from each district advancing to the postseason, playoffs remain a possibility for all of them.
The team in best shape is Lake Ridge. The Eagles have put together a 5-2 campaign thus far in District 15-4A, good enough to be tied for second place with Arlington Seguin. The team was 2-2 before stringing together a three-game winning streak against Waxahachie, Seguin and Legacy.
“I like our team and I like where we are, and the attention to the details our kids have paid to allow us to be in the situation we’re in,” coach Donte Wilson said. “It has everything to do with how hard our kids have worked, and I absolutely like our chances to compete for a district title.”
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The Eagles missed out on the postseason in their first year as a program, but with a full year under their belts, the expectations were raised this season.
“When you’re starting a program, you’re trying to get the foundation built,” Wilson said. “You spend a lot of time going over your expectations and the things it’s going to take to achieve those things. But after going through a year of it and having a lot of those guys back, it made that part much easier.”
Wilson feels his group of returning seniors, Jacob Van, Julian Harris, Brandon Tucker and Timothy Robinson, deserve a lot of credit for guiding the team this season. And whether the Eagles can land a district title or not, they’re banking on their first trip to the postseason, and expect that a challenging District 15-4A schedule will help them if they get there.
Summit sits alone in fourth place with a 4-3 mark, including a win over Lake Ridge. The Jaguars have a two-game advantage over the fifth-place team – Legacy – which managed a 2-5 mark through the first round of 15-4A games. The Broncos have lost four straight district contests.
In District 7-5A, both Mansfield and Timberview find themselves on the outside looking in after seven games. The Tigers have a mountain to climb, having taken just a single victory in the first round of district competition, leaving them in seventh place at 1-6. The Tigers have lost four straight since a 58-52 win over Midlothian on Jan. 3.
Timberview is a game better, in sixth place at 2-5, and hopes that lessons learned from several close losses will pay off in victories the second trip through the district schedule.
“We played a lot of those games very close,” Wolves coach Duane Gregory said. “It’s not like we’re not competing in these games, we just need to find a way to get over the hump. We know that if we do that, in the second half of district we can claw our way back into this thing.”
Earlier this month, Timberview lost consecutive games to South Grand Prairie and Cedar Hill by a combined six points. Gregory feels close affairs like those are fueling important growth in his players that entered this season without varsity experience.
“I’m seeing some guys come along, specifically in the last week-and-a-half to two weeks,” he said. “Guys are really starting to step up and develop, and that’s what we’re going to need.”
Gregory specifically noted the play of Quinn Sutton, Emmanuel Collins and Sean Coleman.
“It’s helping us to develop that bench, which is going to be key in the second half of district,” he added.
Three games out of a playoff spot with seven games left, the Wolves will need every victory they can get, and Gregory has invoked an old coaching idiom to keep his squad focused.
“We’re not going to make up three games in one night,” he said. “We have to take one game at a time. I know that’s an old coaching cliche, but it’s true right here. You can only control what you can control and see what happens in the other games.”